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NEC HYDRAstor 4000: Grid Storage for Long-Term Retention

NEC has announced the fourth generation of its HYDRAstor grid storage platform for long-term data storage. NEC characterizes HYDRAstor 4000 as their biggest announcement in four years: we agree, and think that the upgraded grid storage system offers real benefits to mid-sized and enterprise business and to cloud hosting providers.

Companies traditionally dumped long-term data to vaulted tape as backup or archives. Long-term tape storage is very cheap to keep. Businesses hope they don’t have to find data on that tape, a bad gamble no matter which way you spin it. But there was little justification for keeping long-term retained data online.

Additional solutions aren’t much better. Many companies never get around to migrating data off primary storage, which bloats storage systems and retards performance. Some scale-up NAS systems and long-term data retention appliances are also unsuitable for big data and cloud retention. Data in these environments may not be formally active, but must be kept immediately available. Big data is a big example: it retains immediate historical, trending or re-use value. Another is data that frequently features in litigation or compliance actions, where frequently restoring from vaulted tape is error-prone and time-consuming. And of course the cloud figures heavily into this equation. Cloud hosting providers can scarcely tell their storage customers to wait while they call up the latest tape backup catalog and order the physical tapes.

At the same time, IT and hosting providers must accomplish these availability feats cost-effectively for their business. The need becomes massively scaled storage with high throughput and capacity, with a high ROI on purchase and ongoing operations.

Required features for this type of long-term storage include the following:
•    Inexpensive power and cooling requirements.
•    Technology refresh capabilities that do not require data migration every few years.
•    Continuous data availability, as the point of long-term data retention on disk is immediate access.
•    Efficient provisioning management for large and growing data stores.
•    Massive scalability for both throughput and capacity.
•    Cost-effective capital and operational costs.

This is a tall order and NEC HYDRAstor 4000 is meeting it. The HYDRAstor’s architecture is grid-based for flexible scalability and massive growth. Its grid architecture enables dynamic auto-provisioning to create a single high-performance, high-capacity pool that is shared by file systems and applications. Its top model, the HS8-4000, exceeds 900 TB/hr throughput and grants up to 100PB of effective (not raw) capacity.

Its architecture is based on nodes that IT can add independently of each other depending on the need for throughput performance plus capacity, or capacity alone. The HYDRAstor can admit NEC Hybrid Nodes or Storage Nodes. The Hybrid Nodes increase both performance and capacity. They replace the older generation Accelerator Nodes that only increased performance, since NEC found that IT admins rarely scale throughput without also scaling capacity. The Storage Nodes efficiently increase capacity.

Another feature is that NEC officially supports up to three generations of nodes in the same system. This means that IT can upgrade a system node by node over time without doing a major technology refresh every few years. Customers can retire older nodes as needed and replace them or add to them with newer generation nodes. Before IT pulls the old node, the system will evacuate data and reassign the data.  IT then physically pulls out the old node and replaces it with new node, which the system immediately acknowledges and adds to the storage pool.

One of the real problems associated with long-term retention on disk is data protection. NEC provides a strongly resilient architecture with erasure-coding, dynamic resiliency levels for application priority, and no RAID overhead. The system reconstructs lost data as necessary without reconstructing healthy drives, and spreads the data across multiple spindles. Very high-performance global data dedupe operates inline.

NEC courts mid-sized companies and the enterprise with HYDRAstor. It is also active in selling to hosting providers. NEC partners with Iron Mountain to offer Cloud in a Vault, which provides cloud infrastructure and NEC products and services. The new release crams serious capacity into 4TB drives, which puts HYDRAstor 4000 into a more competitive price position with these customers.

NEC has good technology; that is not the question. The question is how they can compete effectively against deep-pocket competitors in the high end where HYDRAstor lives. We hope that NEC will hit and hit hard their competitive messages of speed, capacity, availability, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. It’s a strong message that deserves to be heard.


  • Premiered: 03/26/13
  • Author: Taneja Group
Topic(s): NEC HYDRAstor retention storage system Storage


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